If you ask any random coach the question, “are academies in South Africa any good” you will probably be met with a long conversation about the poor state of football in South Africa and this is probably why Bafana Bafana can’t win everything.
I am a bit perplexed at why some clubs call their “elite” teams the “academy structure” when 95% of all academies don’t have the basic requirements of what an academy should have.
Does your academy have a resident physiotherapist to deal with injuries you sustained at practice or in a game?
Does your academy have a biokineticist that screens you regularly for alignment issues and muscle imbalance associated with you’re your specific sport? Do you have a sports scientist that has assessed you to determine yours and your team’s weaknesses?
Is there a sustainable progression program in place to take your performance to another level? How about after an injury? Does your coach know how to get you match fit, coming out of a severe injury or does he just put you back into the game and act like you were never injured?
Does your team have a resident or contracted Sports Psychologist that has implemented a mental toughness program to get the best out of you and is he available to deal with life’s challenges which you might bring to your game? Does your academy structure have an outsourced team doctor where all problems are addressed from one reference point?
Does your coach have the right accredited Safa levels or FIFA level accreditation to give you a world class training session? Do you have a team manager that manages all of the above players’ information through an online database? Does he communicate all your previous injuries and concerns to the appropriate professionals?
I will be fair and say, if you answered “NO” to at least 4 of the above questions, then I am afraid it’s time you asked your academy the right questions. If you so happen to sign a youth contract between 1 and 5 years, then my suggestion is you get down on one knee and pray that you have the Messi soccer gene because you are not going to reach your potential on your own.
My best advice to parents is, “Be your own academy!” So called “Academies” can’t afford to pay their coaches well, so what makes you so sure that they are going to invest in necessary professionals which could easily cost them over R2m a year. My point exactly, they are not going to and therefore you are never going to have a proper academy structure unless the club makes a business out of it.
If you are a young athlete, you need to hunt down the best, most qualified, most passionate and youth friendly coach available. They are the ones who are going to impact your career in a positive way. You need a personal skills development and at this point in time, the only franchise in South Africa who are doing it, and doing it well, is Brazilian Soccer Schools.
Say what you want about them for going against the grain, but if you are a young athlete in need of developing “personal” skills and confidence, then this is an absolute must. Some of my athletes who have been in Brazilian schools for over a year just ooze confidence, poise and ball skill.
Next in line is to get assessed with video analysis by a sports science company like Advanced Sports Performance. Not only can they profile you against other athletes your own age, they can screen you for potential risk of injuries associated with poor running mechanics and then formulate an action plan and show you a road map to perform at a high performance level for your age.
Last but not least the Sports Psychologist. Quite easily the biggest underrated asset missing in your tool box. The brain is a complicated high-tech piece of machinery. A Sports Psychologist should be seen as someone who has a torch in the darkness, they have the tools to get you out of the maze with the least bumps, scratches and bruises. Mental toughness is a skill acquisition and the right person for that job is a Sports Psychologist.
At the end of the day, your club is doing their best, considering they don’t have the funds to run a proper academy so the best is for you to be your own academy. You can’t point fingers at anyone else, other than yourself. If you would like any of the contact details of the professionals we use and recommend at ASP, Tweet me on @SeanVStaden.
What are some of the things that are peeving you off about your academy? Share your thoughts below or Tweet me on @SeanVStaden